Our Hearts Are Restless Until They Rest In Thee
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” A bishop in North Africa wrote those words 1600 years ago. He was born a pagan and lived like a pagan, living with his girlfriend and partying with friends for the first half of his life. Finally he got tired of the constant drama in his life, and he decided to submit his life to Jesus Christ. He grew up at that point, and history knows him as “St. Augustine.”
“Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee.” What makes you restless? What do you worry about? Some stress over school—bad grades, or bad friends, or no friends. Some have continual drama with their parents or older siblings. Some worry about the future—what’s going to happen to me in twenty years? Will I have a decent job? Will I be in a miserable marriage like my parents? Will I be a meth addict and an old woman with no teeth by the time I’m forty?
I grew up in the late 60s, when drugs first exploded over America. My older brothers where all on drugs, and I remember crying inconsolably when I was seven years old because I knew I was going to be a drug addict in a few years. But you know what? It never happened. God saved me from drugs, maybe through the horrible experiences of my own brothers. Jesus saved me.Free of Anxiety
“Brothers, I would like you to be free of anxiety
,” writes St. Paul. How can we do that? By “being anxious” about the things of God
, he says—keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. Make him your Number One, and you have nothing to fear. And when you do worry (as we all will), call on him. Pray. And your worries will become manageable
. You won’t need drugs. You won’t need sex and drama. You won’t even need your iPhone. Your life will be peaceful, ordered, joyful.Authority
So they brought this man to Jesus who was convulsed
with an “unclean spirit.” This demon got right in Jesus’ face, shouting at him: “what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?!? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are! The Holy one of God!!” Jesus kept his cool—didn’t shout back. He commanded the impure spirit with divine self-composure: “Quiet! Come out of him.” The demon shook the man and screamed, but came out. And all was quiet, all was calm.
If someone is screaming at you, don’t scream back. If someone is causing drama, don’t add your own drama. Respond with quiet strength. You can choose
to maintain self-possession. You don’t have to get stressed, because you call upon an Authority that calms anxieties with a simple word. “Quiet.” Jesus speaks with authority, through his Church, through the Scriptures, through you
.Noise and Silence
The devil shouts a constant stream of noise into our face. We need to silence him, in the name of Jesus Christ. I can’t even pump my own gas in peace anymore—a screen and a speaker shouting some ad at me. Why is there so much infantile cussing and shouting and hitting and smashing on TV and movies? Cussing, especially, is demonic language, noisy. It’s what the demon did to Jesus—basically cussed him out. But Jesus spoke calmly to him, with quiet authority. Pope Benedict, for example, just wrote a letter about the need for more thoughtful and respectful silence in our culture.
You and I have that same authority as disciples of Christ. Don’t let anxiety get to you. Get some quiet time each day—our chapel is a splendid place of stillness. Kneel before the authority
that moves the sun and the stars. Don’t let the noise of the world shake you up. You are cool, you are self-possessed, you are calm, because you know
Jesus Christ, the source of peace and order.
The War in Iraq officially ended on December 15, thanks be to God, and everyone heaved a great sigh of relief. Nine years ago we watched the first bombings of Baghdad, the “Shock and Awe” that we thought would bring a quick solution to Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. It was an agonizing nine years, and no one knew in 2002, when the nation was debating whether to invade or not, what war with Iraq would bring. When the war ended last month, I heard many voices playing Monday Morning Quarterback. “We should’ve never gone into Iraq. It was all Bush’s fault. It was patently illegal. It scarred a generation and ruined a nation. I would’ve never gone to war with Iraq.” But the fact is, most of America, in 2002, supported the war with Iraq. The Congress voted almost three to one to invade. Senator John Kerry, for example, who would later express outrage at the war, voted to invade, as did 81 other Democrats, and 215 Republicans.
But one person stated unequivocally in 2002 that invading Iraq would certainly be disastrous. That man was Pope John Paul II. He didn’t need to wait to see what happened. He knew already, because he had the advantage of Catholic theological and social science. He said on January 13, 2003, that war must be "the very last option," even when motivated by legitimate concerns. “War is not always inevitable,” he said. “It is always a defeat for humanity … what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, ... already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo?” And he said that international law reminds us that “war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military options."
His words strike us as prophetic. These are the points made by many others, but only after we saw how useless and devastating the war had become. Pope Benedict has said that the Church and the State, while distinct, must work together. The Church can provide a broader view, a wisdom of which the State, driven by politics, can never attain. The Iraq War is a good example of how the State, ignoring the Church’s wisdom, did so to its own destruction. Even now, few politicians admit the cost of ignoring the Church’s wisdom. “I would’ve never voted to invade Iraq,” officials will say. Only one man seemed to have that wisdom in 2003, however: the Pope.
Today, 39 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the direct killing of innocent human persons. The infamous Roe v. Wade decision was a turning point for this nation. We lost our innocence that year. Not only had we given ourselves over to the fornications of the sexual revolution, but in 1973 we declared ourselves willing to destroy any children accidentally conceived by our infidelities. Unlawful sex — any intercourse outside of the marriage covenant — is always violent, and it leads to greater violence. The decay of our social fabric began with the contraceptive pill in the 1940s, but it jolted violently forward with the legalization of abortion in 1973.
Roe v. Wade seemed to catch us off-guard in 1973; but America, who has championed the “culture of death” to all the world, also had led the world in prolife activism. I can remember marching down Pennsylvania Avenue as a kid, in January’s bitter cold. We gathered in the snow at the Ellipse near the White House, and then made our way slowly toward the U.S. Capitol. We waved to legislators along the way who peered from their congressional office building windows. Washington’s March for Life has grown every year since 1974. Now hundreds of thousands march from the White House to the Capitol. And now there are marches in all the major cities, most notably in our own beloved San Francisco, where 40,000 walked yesterday. Five busloads came from St. Joseph’s, and another 20 busses from around our Diocese. Now there are pro-life marches in Paris, London and Madrid. Over these 40 years, the sheer numbers and tenacity of this civil rights movement dwarfs past civil rights movements. Because, indeed, the Pro-life Movement is the civil rights movement of our time. The unborn person is a distinct individual (“if it’s not a baby, she’s not pregnant”) and has rights. We will not stop marching until these rights are recognized in law. We are well on our way.
Homily: True Friendship with Jesus Transforms Us“Speak, O Lord…”
Twenty-one years ago, I had to come up with a scripture verse for my ordination card, and I chose the verse from today’s first reading: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.” The young man, Samuel, has heard the Lord calling, “Samuel, Samuel,” and he speaks back to God. Samuel, for the first time in his life, realizes that God is a real person. He commands the Lord, using the imperative voice, “Speak.” And yet he acknowledges that it is the “Lord” that he is speaking with, that he is the Lord’s servant, and that servant is listening. It beautifully describes his personal relationship with God. And so I put it on my ordination cards, hoping it would also describe my relationship with God as a priest. Friendships transform us
Until I was about 13, God was not real for me, and I had no personal relationship with him. Let’s look more closely at the story from 1st Samuel: “at that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord.” Samuel was not friends with God yet—didn’t talk with Him. Samuel needs a father figure, a mentor, to help him develop a relationship with God. So he goes to the priest Eli, three times, actually, and finally Eli “realizes it was the Lord calling the youth.” So Eli gives him the words with which anyone can initiate a personal relationship with God: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And from that moment, Samuel and the Lord become fast friends. We often do not know how to recognize God in our lives. We need a friend, perhaps a father or mother, to help us—that’s why reading the lives of the saints, or going to confession to a priest, or speaking about your spiritual life to your parents, can be so helpful. I can remember one friendship in particular that opened my eyes to God’s presence when I was just 10 years old.
What does a personal friendship do for you? It changes you. If it is a good friendship, you begin to take on the goodness of your friend. You begin to love the things he or she loves, to adopt the good habits of that friend. You begin to look at the world through his or her beautiful eyes.Jesus makes friends with Simon
In the Gospel, Jesus looks at a man named Simon (his brother Andrew had brought him to meet Jesus). Christ looks at Simon, I mean, looks him straight in the eyes, and says, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Kephas” (which means Peter, or Rocky). Jesus says, in other words, I know you Simon. I know you, and I like you. I want to be your friend, and good friends change each other for the better. So I am going to change you—going to change your name for starters. I’m going to call you Rocky, because on this rock I will build my Church. Jesus Christ wants to be your friend. He wants to be with you, and when he does, you will change. His friendship will transform
you. But we must seek that friendship, that transformation. We must seek a relationship with Christ, both through prayer and a real effort to follow his teachings.Glorify God in your body
Let me say a few words about our powerful second reading, from 1st Corinthians. It addresses one of Christ’s teachings that we find hardest to follow: sexual purity. Brothers, says Saint Paul, your bodies are not your own—they belong to God, so glorify God in your bodies. We live in the aftermath of the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. One of the most important books justifying that revolution was called “Our Bodies Ourselves,” published in 1971. The book claimed that since we own our own bodies, we can do whatever we want with them. Along with this kind of sexual immaturity came unplanned pregnancies, and so we had to legalize abortion to take care of those pregnancies, which we did in 1973. The mantra used to justify the killing of unborn children was usually “it is my body and I’ll do what I want with it.”
Realize that this claim is absolutely contrary to Jesus’ teaching. Even if the unborn child were just a part of the mother’s body (which it isn’t), all our bodies belong to God, not to us. We are stewards
, not owners
, of our bodies. They are sacred
, and they are temples of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s why 40,000 of us will be marching in San Francisco this coming Saturday
, to speak truth and reason to the irrational culture of death spawned by the so-called Sexual Revolution. Everybody’s body is a gift of God. It is not for immorality, but for God’s glory. “So glorify God in your bodies.”
Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. I was not yet two years old when he led the March on Washington in 1963. He had a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Through travail and suffering, African-Americans have gained a good measure of civil rights since then, although the scars of slavery and racism do not heal quickly. Dr. King had to pay with his own life, but no longer can an African-American be denied a job or legal justice because of his skin color. There was a time when even a black man’s life was subject to the whim of the white man. But today, thanks be to God, America adheres more closely to its “creed,” that “all men are created equal.”
But not all men. There is still a class of Americans who, though created equal, do not have the right to live. No serious biologist or geneticist would deny that a distinct life begins at conception. To declare that an individual’s life begins only at birth is not rational or scientific—it is a political definition, not factual. The civil rights struggle of our time is not over skin color, but over age. A whole class of Americans are discriminated against because of their age. They are not yet born, they are too young to enjoy the rights the rest of us do.
But unlike the African Americans of the 1950s and 60s, these Americans cannot march on Washington. They cannot defend themselves. So massive numbers of Americans march on their behalf. Since the March for Life began in 1974, almost 5 million have marched from the White House to the Capitol to give voice to the voiceless. The abortion industry and mainstream media does everything they can to suppress these voices. This Saturday, 30,000 people will walk from City Hall in San Francisco down Market Street to Embarcadero Center. Join me this Saturday in the great civil rights struggle of our time (register this weekend on the plaza or during the week in the parish office). Dr. King’s work is not yet done—until all Americans are treated equally under the laws of this great land. God bless America!
Homily: The Epiphany of the Lord
Herod seeks to be a star
The original meaning of “Epiphany” is “to shine upon,” thus to point out, to shine a spotlight on something. The star shines a spotlight on the baby in Bethlehem. That’s why our Christmas trees are still up—they will come down tomorrow. In the Catholic Church, Christmas does not end until after Epiphany.
The Wise Men follow the Christmas Star to Jesus. They were “overjoyed” at seeing the star, because it shone on a divine child, which they knew was their redeemer. But King Herod also sees that star. What does it mean to him? Nothing. It means absolutely nothing to King Herod. First, a bit about Herod. He considered himself a rising star in the Roman Empire—he became governor of Galilee at age 25, kind of like a college kid becoming governor of California. To consolidate his power, he banished his first wife and their son, murdered hundreds of priests, officials, and finally even his second wife and children. He spent his lif seeking to be a star rather than to follow a star. For the next 12 months, until the presidential election in November, America will be consumed with political news, who is a rising star and who is a sinking star? Who is in, and who is out? But really, there is only one Star that gives light. The rest of us rejoice to see that star, and to reflect its light.
Wise Men follow a star
While Herod glues his attention to dirty, earthly politics, the Wise Men study the skies. They look up, while Herod looks down. They are following another star. They’ve left everything; they’ve set out on a long and perilous journey, to find this star. When they arrive in Jerusalem to find the newborn “king of the Jews,” Herod panics. “Hey, I am the king of the Jews. I fought long and hard to gain that title.” And so he reacts fanatically to keep control—he murders all the boys two and under in Bethlehem. The Magi and Herod go clean past each other in Jerusalem: Herod toward hell, the Magi toward heaven. They are ships passing in the night, on opposite voyages, with opposite destinations.
Kneeling before the Child
How is it that Herod missed the ineffable joy of the baby Jesus? He’s like the scrooge—saw nothing in Christmas but a problem. To him, the baby was just a brat, another poor Jew born to homeless parents. But the Magi see the baby for what he really is—a king, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They kneel before Him; they submit their human kingship to his divine Kingship. Imagine if every political ruler, every movie star and sports idol, would kneel before God. You know what happens when one does—Denver Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow, for example. People go crazy, just like Herod. Submission to God offends the world, because it threatens the world. St. Paul calls this “stewardship” in our second reading. “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit.” All that we have, and all that we are, is God’s. Unto him, render it back. So did the Magi, so must we, to have true joy.
Prayer: getting out of ourselves and seeing God in everything
Why didn’t Herod rejoice when he saw the Star? Because he was imprisoned inside himself. To see the beauty of the Star, we need to get out of ourselves, and it is prayer that leads us out of that prison. Prayer is listening to God, rather than listening to ourselves. Spend time in quiet relationship with God, and all your other relationships will be OK. Mother Teresa used to say: “if your prayer life is all right, your charitable life will be perfectly all right.” No one wants to be a Herod, not even Herod. No one wants to kill babies, or their own wife and sons. But unless we study the heavens like the Magi, we will sink with him. Prayer enlarges the heart and makes it capable of receiving the infinite God. Take the trouble to pray, to look up instead of down, to seek and expect joy. Then we will begin to see God in everything and everyone—even in our frustrations, irritations and misunderstandings. Our faith in God will grow, as will our conviction that everything happens for a reason, God’s reason.
Aida Jimenez (age 10) as this year’s
Christmas Pageant Star
Today Holy Mother Church celebrates the Lord’s “Epiphany,” a Greek word that means the “shining forth.” The Star shone forth on the divine child in Bethlehem; Wise Men followed its brilliance to the very Light itself, Jesus Christ. He appeared to be just a helpless baby, but wise men always have known that you can’t judge by appearances alone. They saw more deeply, and they saw the face of God.
Never has the world been more beguiled by superficial appearances than today. The TV screen began to change our perception of reality in the 1950s, and by 2000 we were spending enormous amounts of time staring at all kinds of flat screens. Almost everything now has a “screen” — not only your TV, but your office phone, your cell phone, your camera (remember when we used to look through a viewfinder rather than at a screen), your car, your computer and every electronic toy or tool. Even books are being reduced to flat screens. How much time do you spend looking at a screen rather than engaging the real world? Don’t get me wrong: screens are quite useful, but we tend to forget that they are only two-dimensional. They seem so real that we easily begin to live inside of them. And in doing so, we too become flat and superficial. Every time I walk out my door I have to fight the urge to check texts or emails on my phone rather than look at the real world and greet real people.
Six years ago, Business week published a scary cover story by Robert Hof on the fantasy “worlds” of multi-player computer games. In 2006, he wrote that at least 10 million people were living “virtual lives” inside computer games. As of July 2011, there are 1.4 billion registered users of virtual games, half of them between the ages of 10 and 14. How many of us are addicted to computer-generated images that don’t exist beyond pixels on a screen? In the worst cases, these people themselves become “pixilated” — superficial images, ghosts of their real selves.
The Wise Men followed a star to find a real person, a divine person. Every child, every person, reflects that divine child, whose depth is infinite. Don’t accept less than the real, for less than Jesus’ real presence in the world around you.
Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Mother of all Feasts
We Catholics are famous for devotion to the Blessed Mother. We carry rosaries and sing songs to her; we put her statue in front of our churches and in the backyards of our homes; we celebrate her many feasts throughout the year: the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, Guadalupe, the Immaculate Heart, the Annunciation, etc. But today, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is the “Mother of all Marian Feasts.” It follows Christmas by one week, because Mary follows Christ. We can only understand Christ, and love Him, by understanding and loving His Holy Mother.
I grew up Catholic, but even in High School I didn’t know how to pray the rosary. Graduation was coming up, and I asked my mother if I could spend the summer before college at our cousins’ ranch in Utah—they were Mormons. She said yes, but only if I also did a 4-week Catholic retreat in Los Angeles. At that retreat, I discovered Mary. I found that Jesus’ mother was also my mother. They taught us a simple song: “Mary, you’re my mother. Ooo—oooo-oooo-ooooo-oooo.” It’s just that simple, and it’s stayed that simple every since. Mary is my mother. I love her, and she loves me. She looks into my face, and I look into hers.
Love your mother
God wants you to love your mother, because if you don’t love your mother, you won’t love anyone. Really, it’s the most natural thing in the world, and it’s where we all began. We all began life under, so to speak, our mother’s hearts—in her womb. The first thing we began to sense was the beating of our mother’s heart, our first reference and identity. Our own hearts began to beat, at around 10 weeks from conception, in rhythm with that great heart just above us. Then we were born, and we pressed our faces to her heart, to her breasts, to receive milk and warmth and love. Sometime, however, around age two, we learned the word “no.” We began saying “no” to our mother’s heart. And we spend the rest of our lives trying to return, to bring our own hearts back into rhythm with hers. She is our first love, and nothing can replace a mother’s love. Some of us don’t have a mother’s love, or very much of it, and that is a great cross. But we have another mother….
Broken Hearts and the Immaculate Heart
No mother is without her own sins, except for one. We begin to see, as we grow older, that our mothers’ hearts are broken, just like ours. It is true that our mothers have at times been careless with us, have misunderstood and hurt us. But though imperfect, a mother will always seek the face and the voice of her child, even an aborted child. In Bethlehem, the shepherds went in haste to see the face of a child. They entered and found Mary and Joseph, and the child, lying in the manger. “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” It is in the heart of Mary that we find our own hearts; it is in the heart of Mary that we find the heart of Jesus. She kept all these things—she kept her baby Jesus—in her heart, kept Him there for us. Our Lady is Jesus’ keeper. The shepherds came to her to find Jesus. We also will find Jesus by going to her. She keeps Jesus for us.
Most of us disrespect or ignore our mothers, at least in small ways. In doing so, dear people, we disrespect and ignore our real selves. Strive for the virtue of reverence, honor, and respect for your mother. And if that is difficult, turn to your mother in heaven for help. In honoring her, we also honor, and learn to love, our earthly mothers. If your own mother does not care for you, turn to your mother in heaven. I began a real relationship with my mother Mary when I was 17. I learned to pray the rosary, and honor Our Lady in all women, beginning with my own mother. I turn to her for help, and I turn to her in love, every morning and every evening. Mary, be our mother today.